Nikon D750, Sigma 50-500mm / f4.5-6.3 APO DG HSM

Lets talk about some big animals today. The American Bison is without any doubt the most iconic animal in the American west. They ones roamed the plaines and prairies by the millions but less than 1,000 bisons survived the massive killings in the 19th century by the white men, and today’s herds are the descendants of those few. We read, I believe in one of the information centers, that about 250,000 bisons live toady in private and public herds in North America.

Badlands National Park has a herd and we always found it in the Sage Creek area, not far from the campground. Except for the mating season the older bulls roam more solitary or in small groups together. Because of their beautiful fur and massive appearance they are a great subject for wildlife photography.

Making a photo has to be done with utmost caution. Don’t be fooled by their relatively slow movements. They can move very quickly and will outrun you easily with a speed up to 50 km/h. We have seen videos of bisons throwing people around within the blink of an eye, and every time we have been out west during the last ten years, we saw someone walking right up to a buffalo with a camera or smartphone in their hand. Well, stupidity never dies…

Most of the time we used the car as a blind and the 500 mm focal length of the lens maintains a distance that the critter will accept and not feel threatened. However, the most important thing is to always keep an eye on the animal and watch its behavior.

This photo of a male bison bull, laying in the grass, was made after a long day out in the field, driving around and searching for critters. I love the shot of this older bull, with mud in its face, burs sticking to its fur, and a horn that tells the story of heavy use…